Place-based learning
Nov 20th, 2014 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Placed-based learning is a relatively new term in the inquiry-based learning literature. I am currently working with a student examining place-based education. Here is a brief excerpt from something that I recently wrote:

Place based education (PBE) and its conceptual model was first described in the literature by Smith in 2002. He suggested that that PBE manifests in five major ways: (a) cultural studies, (b) nature studies, (c) real-world problem solving, (d) internships and entrepreneurial opportunities, and (e) induction into community processes. Tying all of these processes together is the common thread of the concept of place (i.e., location) exercising a critical influence in the design, execution, and outcomes of curriculum and instruction. PBE finds its roots in the work of Dewey (1938), whose broader impact laid the foundation for inquiry learning.

Simply defined by Miriam-Webster (2014), inquiry is “the act of asking questions in order to gather or collect information” (para. 6). Inquiry also refers to activities of students in which they acquire knowledge and understanding of concepts, as well as problem-solving skills. High quality inquiry teaching and learning requires learning to do and learning about at the same time: knowledge, skills, and process are all linked (Shore, Birlean, Walker, Ritchie, LaBanca, & Aulls, 2009).


Habits of mind associated with inquiry learning include: asking questions, designing and conducting investigations, using relevant tools, techniques, and technology to gather information, determining relationships between evidence and explanations, analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating claims and findings (Bell, Smetana, & Binns, 2005). Educational benefits of the use of inquiry learning include improved higher order thinking skills (Mao & Chang, 1998; Smith, 1996), gains in student learning (Jackson & Ash, 2012; Kanter & Konstantopoulos, 2010; Shore, Aulls, & Delcourt, 2007; Shymansky, Hedges, & Woodworth, 1990) and increased engagement (Spronken-Smith, Walker, Batchelor, O’Steen, & Angelo, 2012; Summerlee & Murray, 2010). Because inquiry learning leads to development of imaginative, evidence-based explanations, students’ creative and problem solving skills are simultaneously developed (LaBanca & Delcourt, 2008; LaBanca & Ritchie, 2011).

In the classroom setting, inquiry instruction classically manifested in science instruction in the form of experiments and investigations (Llewellyn, 2013). However, as educators recognized the benefits to inquiry instruction across the disciplines, a broader use of projects emerged. Project-based learning is a comprehensive approach to instruction designed to engage students in the investigation of problems (Blumenfled, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, & Palincsar, 1991). The necessary components of effective project-based learning are (a) a question that organizes or drives the activity; and (b) activities that result in authentic products and artifacts. Schneider, Krajcik, Marx, and Soloway (2002) and Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, and Chinn (2007) demonstrated that inquiry-rooted project-based work increases achievement.
PBE similarly utilizes an inquiry and project-based approach, however the context of projects are consistently rooted in the theme and location of the place. “Place-based education stands apart from project-based learning in that the community is often the project context of first choice. This feature enables students to pursue, with a passion, a project linked to their locality” (Lewicki, 2007, para. 3).


Bell, R. L., Smetana, L., and Binns, I. (2005). Simplifying inquiry instruction. The Science Teacher, 72(7), 30-33.
Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M., & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26(3-4), 369-398.
Bruner, J. S. (1961). The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review, 31, 21-32.
Dewey, J. (1938). Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.
Hmelo-Silver, C. E., Duncan, R. G., & Chinn, C. A. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42(2), 99-107.
Jackson, J. K., & Ash, G. (2012). Science Achievement for All: Improving Science Performance and Closing Achievement Gaps. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 23(7), 723-744.
Kanter, D. E., & Konstantopoulos, S. (2010). The Impact of a Project-Based Science Curriculum on Minority Student Achievement, Attitudes, and Careers: The Effects of Teacher Content and Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Inquiry-Based Practices. Science Education, 94(5), 855-887.
LaBanca, F., & Ritchie, K. C. (2011). The art of scientific ideas: Teaching and learning strategies that promote effective problem finding. The Science Teacher, 78, 8, 48-51.
Lewicki, J. (2007). Place-based learning measures pp: Tips on local learning. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/place-based-learning-measures
Llewellyn, D. (2013). Inquire within. SAGE Publications.
Mao, S., & Chang, C. (1998). Impacts of an inquiry teaching method on Earth science students’ learning outcomes and attitudes at the secondary level. Proceedings of the National Science Council ROC (D), 8, 93-101.
Miriam-Webster, Inc. (2014). Inquiry. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inquiry
Schneider, R. M., Krajcik, J., Marx, R. W., & Soloway, E. (2002). Performance of students in project‐based science classrooms on a national measure of science achievement. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(5), 410-422.
Shore, B. M., Aulls, M. W., & Delcourt, M. A. B. (2007). Inquiry in education volume II: Overcoming barriers to successful implementation. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Shore, B. M., Birlean, C., Walker, C. L., Ritchie, K. C., LaBanca, F., & Aulls, M. W. (2009).
Shymansky, J.A., Hedges, L.V., & Woodworth, G. (1990). A reassessment of effects of inquiry-based science curriculum of the ’60s on student performance. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 27, 127-144.
Smith, D. (1996). A meta-analysis of student outcomes attributable to teaching science as inquiry as compared to traditional methodology. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Temple University, Philadelphia.
Smith, G. A. (2002). Place-Based Education: Learning To Be Where We Are. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(8), 584-594.
Spronken-Smith, R., Walker, R. Batchelor, J., O’Steen, B., & Angelo, T. (2012). Evaluating student perceptions of learning processes and intended learning outcomes under inquiry approaches. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(1), 57-72.
Summerlee, A., & Murray, J. (2010). The impact of enquiry-based learning on academic performance and student engagement. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 40(2), 78-94.

Research Methodologies
Oct 28th, 2013 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Came across this interesting figure comparing qualitative to quantitative methodologies.  I think it tells a nice story.



Jul 30th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

We’ve just completed our TEDxLitchfieldED videos and they are now available on YouTube.  Check my talk out if you have a chance!

Other TEDxLitchfieldED talks:

Cross posting
Jun 25th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Check out:

STEM Initiatives: Sparking Interest in Schools by the Rogers Corporation

I was asked to provide a quote:

“When students have the opportunity to showcase their work to professional audiences that go beyond the four walls of the classroom, it increases the quality.  There is no question that student achievement and engagement increase with these phenomenal events.”  Frank LaBanca, Director, Center for 21st Century Skills Education Connection

Digital Learning Day
Feb 7th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

dig learn day, a set on Flickr.

Here’s a summary of my exciting day on February 1, 2012

Frank LaBanca visited Sandy Hook School in Newtown for digital learning day.  There he joined a fourth grade and second grade class.  Using iPod touches and the StoryKit app, Frank, Ted Varga, teacher, and the fourth grade students created riddles that modeled the literary device personification.  Students selected an inanimate object in the room to personify.  Some examples of their work include:

sample | sample | sample | sample | sample

Frank also visited second grade teacher Robin Walker’s class.  Using the same app, students recorded observations of growth patterns of their Wisconsin Fast Plants that they are growing as part of a science unit.  Some examples include:

sample | sample | sample | sample

The Qualitative Report Annual Conference
Jan 6th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I am presenting my research on both problem finding and reflexivity at The Qualitative Report Annual Conference, in Ft. Laduerdale, FL. Here are the resources for the presentation:


Reflexivity Paper |
Reflexivity Presentation |
Creative Student Scientists Paper |
Creative Student Scientists Presentation


Distilling Problem Solving
Oct 19th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My graduate class and I attempted to distill the essential features of problem solving on our class last week.  We superficially compared our results with Newell and Simon’s (1972) model.  Since they have had time to incubate the ideas, I am wondering what they think of the relationship between the two. (P.S. – is my list what we discussed?)


The Doctoral Student List | Newell and Simon’s List Identify a problem
Determine a strategy
Employ the strategy
Evaluate solution
| Varying levels of task complexity and goal clarity
Constraints and opportunities (e.g, surroundings, prior knowledge, resources, time)
Heuristic and algorithmic strategies
Divergent and convergent thinking
Appraisal of value and relevance



Learning from video
May 18th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My team and I have been talking lately about the notion of teaching videos. “Distance education” processes have been around for a long time, and have manifested in different ways. The challenge for the asynchronous delivery of content is that it be engaging. What does that mean? For a video, engagement might mean:

  • interactive with the viewer (making the viewer complete a task to be an active, instead of passive, learner)
  • interactive internally (when two or more people can talk and interact, it makes the video more engaging)
  • short (too long, tuned out)
  • specific (content should be very targeted)
  • robust (include appropriate visual stimuli)
  • seeing the speaker(s) (there’s something powerful about seeing a person talk and watching the specific content)

This video visually enhances some of this vision:

Alignment of inquiry and 21st century skills standards
May 6th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Tomorrow, presenting at the 2nd biennial International Instructional Leadership Conference, I am going to make a supposition that 21st century skills are inquiry process skills. Below, my prezi presentation:

Green Light Academy means AUTHENTIC
Dec 23rd, 2010 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

This past summer I was the program director for the Green Light Academy.  Here’s a description from the website:

A Beacon of Hope
Green Light Academy is one of many educational and cultural programs offered by Beacon Preservation, Inc. a nonprofit organization designed to promote environmental conservation, sustainable energy options, and “green collar” skills training through lighthouse preservation. Green Light Academy is made possible through a grant from the Connecticut State Department of Education, the 1772 Foundation,  and the generous support of private donors. For 2010, GLA is open to public high school students from Bridgeport, New Haven, Norwalk, Stratford, Fairfield, and Oxford.

The Green Light Academy (GLA) Is a four-week summer residential program for high school students (grades 10-12) that takes place on the college campus of Western State University In Danbury, Connecticut from Sunday, June 27th through Friday July 23rd, 2010. GLA students live In university housing, dine In the Westside Student Center, use WCSU’s classrooms,  conduct research in the libraries and computer labs, conduct experiments In the laboratories of WestConn’s new state-of-the-art Science Building, explore the Ives Nature Center, and enjoy the many playing fields, gymnasiums, and recreational facilities on both the midtown and westside campuses. Our faculty and guest speakers are experienced professors and certified teachers committed to engaging the learner through hands-on skill-buildling exercises. We believe that academic achievement Improves when students develop a new Interest and appreciation for science, technology, and sustainable energy by doing real-world “applied learning” lessons and hands-on activities.

Here is a great video summarizing our month-long program.  Images sometimes capture a program’s essence so much more effectively than words can . . .

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